“Shipping and Handling”

It was Mr. Murphy who taught us how to drown kittens in the lake. It started with three strays. The Murphy’s owned the lumberyard with the warehouse. The one that carried the rat showed up one afternoon. The next morning Mr. Murphy left out a metal dish with chicken scraps. His wife brought the chicken home from the diner where she worked.  The cat came back and ate the scraps so Mr. Murphy did it again the following morning. Then the other two appeared and it was the three of them and they lived in the lumberyard like mascots.

Ollie and Mink Murphy, the fraternal twins, basked in the company of their new playmates.  Mrs. Murphy thought her husband should have known better. After the one they called Nala gave birth to the first batch of kittens, the problems started. The kittens clawed at the wood in the woodpiles, damaging inventory. They sprinted through the warehouse and delayed the workers from unloading the truck and sanding the wood.

Mr. Murphy talked with some of our parents at Church and the next Sunday, instead of Church, a small crowd of us, plus the twins, went to the lumberyard with burlap sacks. Our parents made us.

Mr. Murphy showed us how to do it the way his grandfather showed him when he lived on the farm in Ireland. The sacks were heavy with rocks. We all got to ride in Mr. Murphy’s tractor truck down to the lake, the kittens scrambling in the sacks, a high-pitched purring bleating out.

That night I asked my parents why it’s okay to skip Church to drown kittens. They said Mr. Murphy is an immigrant.


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About Carlie Hoffman

Carlie Hoffman is the recipient of a 92Y/Discovery Poetry Prize, an Amy Award from Poets & Writers, and was listed as one of Narrative Magazine's 30 below 30 poets. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, North American ReviewTriQuarterly, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. She is originally from New Jersey.